PC brigade in dan­ger of sti­fling free ex­pres­sion, says Marc Ja­cobs

De­signer hits back at claim of ‘cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion’ af­ter us­ing dread­locked mod­els in fash­ion show

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Camilla Turner Tony Diver


A RIS­ING tide of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness is a “dan­ger­ous” threat to cre­ativ­ity, a lead­ing fash­ion de­sign­ers has warned.

Marc Ja­cobs launched a sting­ing at­tack on those who at­tempt to sti­fle ex­pres­sion, adding that this only serves to sti­fle imag­i­na­tion.

Ad­dress­ing stu­dents at the Ox­ford Union, he said: “I think it’s very dan­ger­ous to say: ‘You can’t use this, you can’t look at that, you can’t bor­row from that, you can’t be in­spired by that.’

“You know, ‘stay in your own lane’. I don’t re­ally un­der­stand that men­tal­ity and I think it’s a very dan­ger­ous way of think­ing.”

Mr Ja­cobs told an au­di­ence of ap­prox­i­mately 400 stu­dents that cre­ative peo­ple should not be sub­jected to “bor­der con­trol” on what they can and can­not do, on the grounds of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.

Last year, Mr Ja­cobs, who is the head de­signer for his own fash­ion la­bel, was ac­cused of “cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion” af­ter he cast pre­dom­i­nantly white mod­els to wear dread­locks in his New York fash­ion show.

Crit­ics ques­tioned why the 54-yearold de­signer de­cided not to cast more black mod­els for his show, since he was us­ing a hair­style as­so­ci­ated with black cul­ture.

Mr Ja­cobs said that when de­sign­ing the colour­ful dread­locks for his fash­ion show, he drew in­spi­ra­tion from a range of in­flu­ences in­clud­ing rave cul­ture and Boy Ge­orge.

“I didn’t feel like I was do­ing any­thing wrong. I was ex­press­ing my­self – th­ese were my ref­er­ences and my rea­sons for be­ing in­spired to do it,” he said.

“I wasn’t say­ing that this was the ori­gin of dread­locks and yet it caused this whole thing.” He added that he learned a “valu­able les­son” from the de­ba­cle, which pro­voked an an­gry back­lash on so­cial me­dia.

“What I did learn from that ex­pe­ri­ence is to have some re­spon­si­bil­ity to be sen­si­tive, es­pe­cially when peo­ple say ‘this feels like ap­pro­pri­a­tion’, then at least lis­ten to what they have to say.”

Mr Ja­cobs said: “Be­cause I re­acted out of anger, I felt at­tacked for do­ing some­thing that I thought was my right to do. I do feel that cre­ative peo­ple shouldn’t have any kind of bor­der con­trol on what it’s okay to look at, what it’s okay to be in­spired by, so I stand by that.”

He was speak­ing at the Ox­ford Union along­side Ed­ward En­nin­ful, who is the first black and first male ed­i­tor of Bri­tish Vogue in the pub­li­ca­tion’s 100-year his­tory. Mr En­nin­ful told stu- dents that he had no prob­lem with ap­pro­pri­a­tion, so long as the orig­i­nal cul­ture was given credit.

“If some­one ap­pro­pri­ates some­thing, as long as they give credit where it’s from and give the his­tory of where it’s from, I’m com­pletely fine with it,” he said. “If you are go­ing to ap­pro­pri­ate, just credit the orig­i­nal.”

Uni­ver­si­ties have been at cen­tre of a string of “cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion” rows in re­cent years.

Protests from Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity stu­dents caused an Around the World in 80 Days- themed party to be can­celled.

They com­plained that the theme could be seen as racist if rev­ellers dressed up in clothes from a dif­fer­ent eth­nic group.

The opera Aida was can­celled at Bris­tol Uni­ver­sity af­ter a re­volt by stu­dents who feared that white stu­dents would be cast as leads and ex­pected to por­tray An­cient Egyp­tians and slaves.

The model Ken­dall Jen­ner wear­ing a dread­lock wig on the cat­walk in Mark Ja­cobs’s New York col­lec­tion last year

The de­signer Marc Ja­cobs ar­gued at the Ox­ford Union that cul­tural “bor­der con­trols” are dan­ger­ous

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